With its elegant old buildings, some dating back more than two centuries, and its lovely location right on the Atlantic Ocean, historic Charleston is one of the most charming spots in the South. Along with an elegant collection of antebellum, Georgian and Victorian structures, visitors will find great restaurants, clean beaches and natural areas, as well as a variety of fun festivities throughout the year.
Charleston is chock-full of interesting attractions, from historic antebellum homes to fascinating history museums. The oldest unrestored plantation home in the U.S., Drayton Hall is a great showpiece of Palladian architecture, while the Magnolia Plantation features some of the prettiest gardens in town. The Charleston Museum is one of the most important sites in the region. Here, you’ll find a variety of Revolutionary and Civil War memorabilia, including an armory stocked with a fine selection of old guns and swords. The museum’s Natural History Gallery showcases prehistoric fossils and the Lowcountry History Hall featuring displays of Native American artifacts from the area.
Angle for Big Trophies
Charleston offers some great inland fishing, with plenty of spots to angle for redfish, trout and flounder. Popular areas include Lake Moultrie, Lake Marion and the Cooper River. Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge is also a popular spot for fishing, as well as shrimping and crabbing, and oysters and clams can be harvested here during the cooler season.
Kayaking is also popular in the Charleston area, owing largely to the abundance of peaceful salt marshes in the region, and there are plenty of outfitters around town that offer rentals and instruction. By the same token, there are plenty of boat operators offering maritime excursions; if you’re lucky, you might even spot Atlantic bottlenose dolphins.
If you want to get out into nature, you’ll have plenty of chances in the Charleston area. Bulls Island, located in the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, boasts two short trails: the mile-long Middens Trail and the two-mile Turkey Walk Trail. If you want to get outside but would prefer a less active adventure, consider a visit to the 1755 Middleton Place House Museum, which features the oldest landscaped garden in the United States. Historical reenactments are big here, with costumed actors showing off old-time crafts and trades, and you’ll find a virtual menagerie here, from cows and chickens to water buffalo and cashmere goats.
History by the Sea
History comes to life in Charleston, and the beautiful city is filled with glorious old buildings, some of which are now museums. These include the Edmondston-Alston, a Greek Revival city mansion filled with antique furniture, and the Aiken-Rhett House, which has changed little since its last refurbishment in 1858. Other beautiful homes worthy of a visit include the Nathaniel Russel House, with its elliptical spiral staircase and gold-leaf molding, and the art-filled Calhoun Mansion, which has equally impressive Japanese water gardens in its backyard. Perhaps the most famous historical building is Boone Hall, one of the oldest working plantations in the country; it’s best known for its mile-long driveway that’s flanked with towering oak trees, earning it the moniker, “The Avenue of Oaks.”
Charleston puts on no shortage of events throughout the year, most of which offer entertainment for all ages. Food celebrations include the Lowcountry Oyster Festival (the largest oyster fest on Earth), held in January, and the Charleston Wine + Food Festival, featuring around 100 food and wine offerings.
In March, Charleston Fashion Week turns Marion Square into a temporary hothouse for fashion, while the Spoleto Festival in late May and early June showcases performing arts across genres. Later in the summer, the MOJA Arts Festival celebrates arts and culture from the African diaspora, with music, theater and dance from Africa and the Caribbean.
For More Information
Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau
South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism